Today is the 75th birthday for one of the world’s most recognized landmarks. On this day in 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened to pedestrians. It was reported that 200,000 people crossed it on that day. The 1.2 mile long suspension span is an icon of San Francisco that is visited annually by millions of people from around the world.
The Golden Gate bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait – the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. At 4,000 feet it was, at the time, the longest suspension span in the world. Today it ranks 9th. The longest span is now in Japan at 6,500 feet in length. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, is the only (slightly) longer span in the US at 4,260 feet.
It took four years to build the Golden Gate bridge at a cost of ~$65M dollars. In today’s dollars the cost would have been ~$1.2B dollars. Building the bridge was not without controversy. There were those that felt man should not bring together that which God separated (SF and Marin county). Those would include the ferry operators of the day although I’m guessing religion wasn’t their real concern.
There is even controversy today over credit for the design and build. Two men were key – Joseph Strauss, the builder, and Charles Ellis the design engineer. Ellis was responsible for thousands of stress computations, the preparation of stress sheets (no computers in those days) and the development of specifications, contracts and proposal forms. In December of 1931 Strauss insisted that Ellis take a vacation. During his vacation Ellis received a letter from Strauss instructing him to turn all his work over and to take an indefinite unpaid vacation. Even today it’s still not clear why Strauss fired his design engineer. Ellis lost his place in history and received no credit for his decisive role in the design of the Golden Gate Bridge. The plaque placed on the bridge in 1937 did not acknowledge his key role but, fortunately, that is being corrected.
The Golden Gate Bridge has always been painted orange vermilion, (aka International Orange) because the distinctive color blends well with the natural setting. The warm color is distinct from the cool colors of the sky and sea. There’s no doubt that the color remains the most memorable feature of the stunning landmark.
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